Heading north once again across this expansive South American continent, on an overnight bus from Mendoza to beautiful Salta, in Argentina.
Following the last wild bus trip from Chile’s Santiago to Mendoza across the stunning Andes, here we are again, but on a much longer bus journey than the last.
If you find yourself in Mendoza and wanting to head north to Salta, then the comfortable overnight Andesmar bus takes over 19 hours. Don’t believe what the label in the map at right, says – it lies.
Of course as most of the travel is during the night, there isn’t much to see on this journey. So, I suggest you take loads of music, games, and reading material. If you’re anything like me and can’t sleep much on buses, you will get bored.
Also, I’m not a big fan of Spanish dubbed movies with Spanish titles blaring in your ears.
Founded by the Spanish in 1582 and lying in the Lerma Valley at around 1,152 metres (3,780 feet), this region is famous for wine production and the uncommon Torrontés grape, and is one of Argentina’s oldest cities.
Salta is also famous for its gorgeous colonial architecture.
An inside glimpse of the intricate opulence.
And if you have time and wish to partake…
On a side note, I have noticed many Bolivians here in Salta. Perhaps as Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, borders are crossed for a better life.
Many seem to sell merchandise on the streets and in the parks of Salta. Children as young as five sell arts, crafts, snacks, and trinkets.
Salta has a friendly and safe feel – locals are very hospitable.
Other sights in Salta include several theatres and museums.
A shame that I discovered after leaving Salta that one museum exhibits perfectly preserved 500-year-old children bodies, sacrificed to Inca Gods in the Andes – then again, a tad macabre.
Salta hosts art exhibitions, music festivals, parades, shows, and cultural events throughout the year – there seems to always be something happening, each time you take a stroll.
If you’re visiting during the month of April, you are treated with an entire month of extra activities such as a handcraft exposition, and cultural and live orchestral performances, during the April Culture Festival.
As with many areas in South America, Salta hosts a plethora of parades – any excuse for a parade I say, which is a lot of fun for tourists. Though I am pretty sure that parades are not held because of tourists. On the contrary, perhaps it is because of tradition and the love of celebrating…anything.
Makes parties not war.
Greeted by a Gaucho Parade whilst wandering the streets of Salta today, what a show of intriguing solidarity.
Gauchos (cowboys) of varying ages parade each year on June 17th in memory of Martín Miguel de Güemes, the national hero that fought for independence back in the early 1800s.
This event begins the night before at the Güemes monument and as an all-night vigil, ends with the parade at the base of San Bernardo Hill, with local and national Gauchos wearing the traditional red and black outfits.
This is a fantastic colourful and proud spectacle for any local or tourist as it is not tourist-driven, but an important traditional event.
Bolivian music parade
Today we stumbled on a lovely musical show in the park with young Bolivian artists. These free events are always great to pass hours away indulging in local activities, whilst waiting on a bus verdict to the Atacama.
Beautiful South American faces of which I can’t but help to take photos of, regardless of the focus.
Stunning day trip on the Tren a las Nubes
When in Salta, you must indulge in the Tren a las Nubes’ day trip, which is an amazing trip through the clouds, on a train.
The day is nothing short of spectacular and such a special trip that I’ve dedicated a whole post to the day’s experience, which is scheduled for next week.
Things don’t always go smoothly when you’re on the road, right?
Have you ever visited travel blogs that paint a flawless rosy picture of everything always going to plan, or fantastically well, or the perfect trip? Either these travellers are extremely lucky and nothing ever goes wrong for them, which I find unbelievable after 30-plus years of travel, or their portrayal is not entirely sincere. What do you think?
With the intention of only staying in Salta long enough to organise a bus to the Atacama Desert, with every day that passes, the sinking feeling of never getting there is fast becoming reality.
Daily trips to our trusty bus station to hear all sorts of excuses of why buses to the border are cancelled, are waning thin.
The snow is too deep. The wind is too strong. The weather is much too dangerous…but only at the border. Perhaps it’s because this border crossing is at over 4,000 metres high, so subject to extreme weather conditions.
This journey back across the Andes and descending down into the Chilean side of San Pedro de Atacama, is said to be spectacular.
Needing another travel plan as we can’t stay in Salta forever and with the Atacama an ever-fading dream, then crossing overland into Bolivia is the next option.
Bus to Chilean border
Today however, a stroke of luck!
The bus is actually leaving and so, we wait at the bus station with all our belongings. The journey is only around six hours.
Setting off early and on time, the bus is totally full as many passengers also waited over a week to cross the border in to Chile.
Our hopes are high, but short lived.
Arriving just a few kilometres from the border, our bus is stopped by guards.
You cannot go any further.
The snow is 2-metres deep at the border and buses cannot pass – you need to turn back!
But we’ve just travelled almost six hours with only a splattering of snow on the ground. No major snow in sight.
How can the snow suddenly become 2-metres deep, just at the border?
Everyone is angry.
Locals are getting off the bus and arguing with the guards as they don’t believe the story, and say it’s a political excuse.
The love/hate relationship between Argentina and Chile is no secret – although these two countries have never been to war and even though the countries share the longest border in the world.
The bus driver is cheesed off. The mood is tense. I am hoping violence won’t be next.
But, the guards are not swayed. We are not going to the border today.
Our bus is turned back for the return six-hour journey to Salta. Another day is lost.
Everyone is miserable.
A positive? We went on a bus trip today! 🙂
Arriving back at the station, we immediately bought an overnight bus ticket for this evening, to the Quiaca-Villazon border crossing and in to Bolivia. Headed back to the hostel to wait.
Our friends at the hostel greeted us with disbelief. After 14 days in Salta and a 12-hour fruitless bus trip, we are back, but cannot stay any longer.
Salta offers many types of accommodation at varying prices. My rule of thumb is to read the reviews before booking, but even then, it’s hit and miss.
Most hostels are a great meeting place and the communal kitchens are a hype of activity. Meals can be shared with other travellers and some hostels host different food and theme nights, which are fun.
It is in the Salta Por Siempre hostel that we met and instantly connected with our great empathetic friends. Extradited from the UK – well, not really – just travellers like us and would continually bump into these two along the way.
Funny how fate and paths cross.
Leaving Salta at last
Despondent at today’s turn of events not reaching the border, but at also missing the Atacama Desert, a new travel chapter commences tonight.
I hope that the overnight bus to the Bolivian border Quiaca and on to Villazon, arrives without any dramas. Although, we all know that this is South America and anything can happen…